“But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:40-42 (NLT)
A few days ago, on the first Sunday of December, we lit the first candle to mark the beginning of the Advent Season at our church. We both grew up in churches that did not celebrate Advent. It simply wasn’t a part of our lives. However, now that we’re grown and married the church we attend recognizes Advent by lighting candles and reading passages about each candle. It’s a great reminder this season to slow down and think about the significance of this time. I know that in our own lives, this time of year comes with a crazy calendar.
I’ve spent a good a deal of time over the past few days reading about the history, the liturgy, the symbolism and more concerning Advent. After reading numerous articles from people of varying Christian backgrounds and beliefs regarding Advent things became a bit murky. Some churches celebrate Advent while others do not. Of those who do celebrate Advent, most seem to agree on the major reason that we celebrate Advent: the coming of Christ. However, not everyone agrees on how we’re supposed to celebrate it. Should we light candles before, during or after service and should there be prayer or a reading accompanying it? There are also generally agreed upon meanings behind the candles, what color they are and what they represent. Some churches, however, deviate from these “traditional” meanings and substitute their own in. The colors of the candles, the meanings of them and whether or not to include a central “Jesus” candle varies as well. Odds are, if you go to 4 different churches during the month of December you will see 4 unique Advent observances (or perhaps none at all).
After reading all of this, it was hard to be able to write anything specifically about Advent. Then it clicked in my head. Since Advent isn’t something that is found in the Bible it needs to be (if anything at all) something that serves as a reminder rather than a ritual. A ritual without a reason is pointless. Going through the motions of “celebrating Advent” carries no benefit without having a solid reason behind it. In the Old Testament, God loved to have his people build (altars, memorials, and signs) and do things (feasts, circumcision, and sacrifices) that served as reminders to them. I truly believe that he knew that it wouldn’t take much time or much tribulation to make them forget Him.
I personally rely on the calendar and reminder functionality of the phone that I carry with me every day to not forget things. Setting up these reminders helps me to do the things I both want and need to do in my life. We believe that Advent should be a time that continues to remind us of the coming of Christ. This is why we personally recognize Advent. It’s not a ritual or even a tradition to us. It’s a reminder that Christ came as the lamb to be slain for our sins a millennium ago. Soon he’ll return as the Lion to settle accounts once and for all. With the hectic nature of the month of December, what are we doing to build reminders around us that point to Christ?